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The View From Pluto: Ashland's 'Cinderella Basketball Disneyland' Begins A New Chapter

After a 104-3 record, Coach Robyn Fralick has been hired at Bowling Green State University
Ashland University
After a 104-3 record, Coach Robyn Fralick has been hired at Bowling Green State University

Ashland University has built a women's basketball dynasty. The Division II team has won two national titles in the past seven years. They won 73 games in a row until losing in the national title game last month. Now, the team's head coach is moving on. WKSU commentator Terry Plutotalks about what's next for the small school with a big program. 

Terry Pluto on Ashland women's basketball dynasty

A basketball royal family

Pluto says Ashland has built a "basketball royal family." It began with Sue Ramsey who coached there for 20 years and led the team to a national title. Her assistant, Robyn Fralick, took over when Ramsey retired three years ago. "They went from being really good to record breaking. I’ve never seen anything like it, right in our backyard," Pluto says. 

Fralick led the Eagles to a 104-3 record, winning the national title in 2016-17. They lost in this year's title game last month, snapping an unprecedented 73-game winning streak.

Pluto says Fralick has been courted by other schools for a couple years. Last year, she turned down Belmont College in Nashville. But this year, Bowling Green State Universitycalled, and she accepted. “This is who you get to revive your program,” Pluto says. 

Fralick received a six-year contract at an annual salary of $231,000. She was making $80,000 a year at Ashland. 

A basketball Disneyland 

Pluto says the culture and atmosphere at Ashland is unique. Fralick's husband was a volunteer, part-time assistant with the team. "They have two little kids and they would bring them to the gym, and you’re able to do that in Division II. It was almost like they have this Cinderella basketball Disneyland."

Pluto says the women's team sells out most every game. "They average 1,500 fans a game in a gym that holds 1,700. You go watch some of the MAC games, there are 300-400 people in a gym that holds 7,000."

Keeping it in the family

So, Pluto says Fralick's replacement was key. Ashland promoted assistant coach Kari Pickens, 27, who was a stand-out player under former coach Sue Ramsey. “She’s part of the royal family too,” Pluto says. 

"The first thing [Pickens] did was get on the phone and make sure the kids they have are staying, and the recruits they have are staying," Pluto says. 

As for Fralick, Pluto thinks she’ll do well at Bowling Green. “But I think they’ll be moments she’ll think it was a lot more fun at Ashland, because that’s how it is in the beginning.”

Copyright 2021 WKSU. To see more, visit WKSU.

Amanda Rabinowitz
Amanda Rabinowitz has been a reporter, host and producer at WKSU since 2007. Her days begin before the sun comes up as the local anchor for NPR’s Morning Edition, which airs on WKSU each weekday from 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. In addition to providing local news and weather, she interviews the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto for a weekly commentary about Northeast Ohio’s sports scene.